(Stars and Stripes)

NAVAL AIR FACILITY ATSUGI, Japan – Freshmen batters and veteran arms led the way as Yokota captured its first Far East Division II softball tournament title Tuesday since 2016 and its third overall.

Audry Young hit a walk-off, two-run single to cap a 12-run rally for a 15-13 win over Matthew C. Perry that sent the Panthers to the championship game. There, Brenna Flaim stroked a go-ahead single that put the Panthers up to stay in a 9-5 win over the Samurai.

Erica Haas went the distance for the win in the earlier game vs. Perry, and Zaylee Gubler threw a complete game in the championship for Yokota.

To Yokota coach John Liss, the earlier victory was the “real” championship game. “The girls just dug down and they were able to come up and get the victory,” Liss said. “I felt they could come back from anything at that point.”

Liss pointed to a game the Panthers played against Division I Kubasaki in late March in which they almost came back to win.

“That was what we learned on Okinawa, when you come back and work your magic,” Liss said. “It’s never over. We scored eight runs with two out.”

Young had begun working at third base for the Panthers after previous starter Abbie Vernon changed schools.

“She started playing really well and today, she got that hit and got her self-confidence up and she and the team got rolling,” Liss said. “Brenna came through, too. The freshmen did it.”

Haas got hit fairly hard in the early contest, giving up eight hits and nine walks, but Liss said he stuck with her, knowing that he would need Gubler for a later game.

“Erica gave us just enough,” Liss said. As for Gubler, “she was like, whatever comes, I’m going to handle it, I’m going to overcome it.”

The exhausted Samurai had played five games to that point, starting at 8 a.m., and two of three games against the Panthers. But Perry coach Brad Cramer said he was proud of how far his charges went.

“This is the best team that M.C. Perry has ever produced,” he said. “It’s all because each of these individuals wanted to play the game and push themselves and their teammates. I’m very proud of the girls.”

Sera Shimakura and Chelsea Campbell each had two hits for the Samurai in the final. Yanisa Santiago took the loss.

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Dave Ornauer has been employed by or assigned to Stars and Stripes Pacific almost continuously since March 5, 1981. He covers interservice and high school sports at DODEA-Pacific schools and manages the Pacific Storm Tracker.

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